Oh, my poor little 7yo daughter!
Through an unfortunately series of events, late last week she witnessed Linda’s dogs attacking and killing her pet rat Trixie. Worse, she was alone in the house at the time. At least she was smart enough not to intervene, I suppose, so she didn’t end up bitten by the dogs in the middle of their frenzy, but still…
Since then she’s had a sadness in her heart – unsurprisingly – and bedtimes have been quite atypically difficult, 1-2 hour affairs that end with her sobbing and thinking about her poor Trixie. It’s very sad.
Problem is, I don’t really know how to help other than to hold her and assure her that Trixie is in a better place. But I want to just pluck the heartbreak away, I want to have a better clue about healing a trauma of this nature and I just feel clueless.
Personally I haven’t really had much experience with death, either of people or pets, and while I consider that a blessing, it’s left me unprepared with no comforting stories or shared experiences with which to ease her pain.
Even our beloved standard poodles Jasmine and Karma ended up staying with Linda when we separated and divorced (they were about 15 at the time) so when they both passed away, I had already separated myself from the situation.
Otherwise I can only imagine the horror of the situation, K- trying to figure out why the dogs were scrabbling madly under a piece of furniture just to have her rat run out with the hope she’d rescue it. The dogs intercepted it and before her eyes killed it. It makes tears run down my face both for the experience of the little rat, certainly a terrible death, and even more for the experience of my little girl who had to come face to face with death in a way no child – or adult – should ever experience.
I know that there’s a common belief that replacing a dead pet with a new one is a good strategy, but it seems to me that it’s not going to do anything to ease the pain of her experience and, frankly, Linda’s the one with all the pets anyway. I have a cat, Newton, that’s awesome cool and very social. She has two dogs, two rabbits, gerbils, rats and a 50gal fishtank.
The core question, however, isn’t whether to replace, it’s how to comfort. Anyone have a few words of wisdom on how to help a child overcome the sadness of losing a pet coupled with the rather grisly experience of witnessing its death so horribly?